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Peralta Colleges Chancellor Steps Down, Citing Conflicts with Board of Trustees

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Peralta Colleges Chancellor Regina Stanback Stroud, who has only held the position for nine months, will step down next month amid claims that the Peralta Community College District Board of Trustees undermined her leadership and exhibited racial discrimination against African American staff.

In a scathing resignation letter, Stanback Stroud listed a series of 11 accusations against the Board of Trustees, including, “Hostile conduct towards others and each other,” “violations of confidentiality at closed board meetings,” and “fostering a culture of contempt by modeling disrespect and contempt for executive administration…”

“They are not true,” Trustee Board President Julina Bonilla told the San Francisco Chronicle. She declined to make specific responses as some of Stanback Stroud’s accusations, by law, would require investigations.

Stanback Stroud claimed in her letter that the Board interfered with “fair and effective hiring practices,” as she attempted to fill vacant leadership positions at the district level, and added that the Board colluded with unions “against the interest of the district.”

Peralta Faculty Union President Jennifer Shanoski contradicted Stanback Stroud’s charge of collusion in a statement to the Chronicle. “From a labor perspective, we’ve never had a worse relationship than with this chancellor,” Shanoski said.

According to the Chronicle, the unions had filed a complaint against her over a communications matter and the failure to reveal plans on what employees can expect this fall in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Allegations of racist and ‘hostile’ behavior 

In a July 19 letter to the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s office in Sacramento from the president of the Peralta Association of African American Affairs (PAAAA) alleged that the board’s actions toward Stanback Stroud were not only abusive but racially motivated.

“We have observed an increase in racism toward the Chancellor by some Board members,” said the letter written by PAAAA President Lawrence VanHook, a Laney College professor, referring to concerns expressed in April.

Stanback Stroud claimed that the Board’s “hostility and contempt toward administration, particularly a pattern practice against African American executive staff” undermined the Chancellor’s authority as outlined in the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges.

Thus far, no evidence has been provided to support the allegations.

On Friday,  Bonilla and board vice president Cindi Napoli-Abella Reiss issued a joint statement, signed by Stanback Stroud.

“We want to assure everyone in the Peralta Community that our organization is strong,” the letter states. “While this situation is not ideal, there is no doubt that we will continue to serve students and our community with dedication and compassion.”

A district in distress

When Stanback Stroud was hired in a unanimous vote from the Board of Trustees in Fall 2019, it was no secret that she faced a district in distress. The former president of Skyline College said she had come out of retirement to work for the Peralta District because she had felt “called” to serve her home community.

In a now-foreboding statement during the September 2019 Chancellor’s forum, Stanback Stroud said that she hoped to address the internal culture of the colleges and that she was “not willing to be abused,” — emphasizing that she would not tolerate any bullying of any kind, especially towards leadership.

Just a few months earlier, amid widespread concern for the district’s fiscal health, the Board had requested an evaluation from the Fiscal Crisis Management Team (FCMAT). The subsequent report cited an “excessively high” fiscal health risk and referenced a culture of favoritism and miscommunication — among other alarming issues. The California Community College Board of Governors warned that the district could face fiscal insolvency or an emergency takeover from the state if the financial issues were not resolved.

The FCMAT report came as no surprise to some faculty and staff who had long been critical of the district’s administrative culture and budget priorities while declining enrollment and high turnover at the executive level of Peralta College leadership had further impacted public trust and credit rating over the years.

In early 2019, Chancellor Jowell Laguerre prematurely stepped down amid widespread criticism and accusations of fund mismanagement. His contract was due to end in 2020 but the board voted unanimously to accept his “early retirement.”

Just a few months later, vice-chancellor of general services Sadiq Ikharo was placed on permanent leave following Laney College’s failure to meet fire safety standards — ultimately resulting in over half a million dollars spent in temporary safety expenses.

The district announced July 29  that Vice-Chancellor Carla Walter will serve as acting chancellor while the board undertakes the search for Stanback Stroud’s replacement.  The board aims to appoint an interim chancellor by Oct. 1. 

Written by Saskia Hatvany with contribution by Wanda Ravernell. 

 

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Why Promoting Private Sector Investment in Electronic Vehicle Charging Market is Key

As Democrats debate their $2 trillion infrastructure package, there has already been a lot of discussion about provisions aimed at promoting EVs. I know Democratic leaders like Speaker Pelosi will ensure that these policies will effectively encourage the adoption of EVs, and one way to do that is to ensure free and fair competition in the EV charger market.

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The Biden Administration has expressed that one of their priorities is to facilitate more use of electric vehicles (EVs). Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has said that “to meet the climate crisis, we must put millions of new electric vehicles on America’s roads.”
The Democratic Party is in agreement that EVs are a big part of the future of our transportation system and will be a huge component of their upcoming infrastructure package. But in the rush to move to electric cars, it is critical that Democratic leaders like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ensure policies will be effective at aiding in the transition to EVs without putting the burden of this shift on already underserved communities.
One policy to avoid, for example, can be seen right here in California, where the California Public Utilities Commission approved utility companies to increase the rates on current customers to pay for the construction and operation of EV infrastructure.
Given that EVs are also not an economically viable option for most Americans, the people who will benefit most from these charging stations are those who can afford the EVs’ more expensive sticker price – which is wealthier Americans. On average, an EV costs nearly $20,000 more upfront than gas-powered vehicles. Yet the people who will be most burdened by an increase on their monthly electric bill to cover the cost for these EV chargers are already struggling families. Low-income families should not have to shoulder additional burdens for addressing climate change, particularly since wealthier people produce more carbon pollution.
And while utility companies have tried to downplay the increased costs on ratepayers, the utilities’ EV infrastructure projects have already run exceedingly over budget – meaning they have to charge their customers even more. For example, the public utility commission authorized $45 million for the first phase of “Power Your Drive,” which was a program established for utilities to build EV chargers. But by the time phase, one was complete, San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) had spent $70.2 million — 55.5 percent more than authorized.
The fact that these utility companies went so over budget highlights another flaw with this policy. Because utilities can pass the costs of building and operating EV chargers onto those who already use their services, it is impossible for the private sector to compete against them. SDG&E running 50 percent over budget would mean lost market share and profits in the private sector. That is why private funds incentivize efficiency and cost savings.
Utilities using their current customers as piggy banks that they can dip into whenever needed removes the incentive to keep costs down, while also making it impossible for the private sector to compete in the EV charging market. And chasing away private sector investment will hamper the development and deployment of charging stations. That can’t be emphasized enough – going the SDG&E route will mean fewer charging stations and fewer EVs on the road, as well as higher costs for low-income consumers. It is truly a lose-lose proposition.
It is obvious that the private sector is key to fueling our current transportation sector, and competition keeps prices as low as possible for consumers. Free market competition and private sector investment would also help the EV charging market thrive if elected officials will let it.
As Democrats debate their $2 trillion infrastructure package, there has already been a lot of discussion about provisions aimed at promoting EVs. I know Democratic leaders like Speaker Pelosi will ensure that these policies will effectively encourage the adoption of EVs, and one way to do that is to ensure free and fair competition in the EV charger market.
Jaime Patino is a city councilman in Union City, CA, and represents the city on the Board of Directors of East Bay Community Energy. 

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TownConnect Initiative Wish Program Downpayment Assistance

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Oakland Program Distributes $500 to Families of Color

The assistance, which targets low-income families of color in the 426,000-population city, will last 18 months. Mayor Schaaf detailed that the money comes with “no-strings attached,” and recipients can use it as they please. “We have designed this demonstration project to add to the body of evidence and to begin this relentless campaign to adopt a guaranteed income federally,” Mayor Schaaf told the local ABC News station.

In the middle of a worldwide awakening to the centuries-old racism and oppression suffered by Black people, some African Americans finally see tangible assistance – even if the help isn’t characterized as reparations.

Oakland, Calif., Mayor Libby Schaaf announced that the city would begin a guaranteed income project that would provide $500 per month to Black and Indigenous families.

The assistance, which targets low-income families of color in the 426,000-population city, will last 18 months.

Mayor Schaaf detailed that the money comes with “no-strings attached,” and recipients can use it as they please.

“We have designed this demonstration project to add to the body of evidence and to begin this relentless campaign to adopt a guaranteed income federally,” Mayor Schaaf told the local ABC News station.

The station reported that, for the project, the Oakland Resilient Families program has so far raised $6.75 million from private donors, including Blue Meridian Partners, a national philanthropy group.

The programs require residents have at least one child under 18 and income at or below 50 percent of the area median income – about $59,000 per year for a family of three.

Half the spots are reserved for people who earn below 138 percent of the federal poverty level or about $30,000 per year for a family of three, ABC reported. Participants are randomly selected from a pool of applicants who meet the eligibility requirements.

The report noted that Oakland’s project is significant because it is one of the most outstanding efforts in the U.S. so far, targeting up to 600 families. And it is the first program to limit participation strictly to Black, Indigenous, and people of color communities.

Oakland, where 24 percent of the residents are Black, is among a growing list of municipalities providing financial payments to people of color – or reparations.

Evanston, Illinois, a city where 18 percent of its more than 74,500 residents are Black, approved the Local Reparations Restorative Housing Program, which provides up to $25,000 for housing down payments or home repairs to African Americans.

In September, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law historic legislation that paves the way for African Americans and descendants of slaves in the Golden State to receive reparations for slavery.

The bill, authored by California Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, establishes a nine-person task force that will study the impact of the slave trade on Black people.

It does not commit to any specific payment, but the task force will make recommendations to legislators about what kind of compensation should be provided, who should receive it, and what form it would take.

“After watching [the presidential] debate, this signing can’t come too soon,” Newsom declared during a videoconference with lawmakers and other stakeholders, including the rapper Ice Cube, who championed the bill.

“As a nation, we can only truly thrive when every one of us has the opportunity to thrive. Our painful history of slavery has evolved into structural racism and bias built into and permeating throughout our democratic and economic institutions,” the governor stated.

Last summer, Asheville, a North Carolina city where Black people make up just 11 percent of the more than 92,000 residents, formally apologized for its role in slavery. The City Council voted unanimously to provide reparations to African American residents and their descendants.

“Hundreds of years of Black blood spilled that fills the cup we drink from today,” said Councilman Keith Young, one of two African American members of the City Council that voted 7-0 in favor of reparations.

“It is simply not enough to remove statutes. Black people in this country are dealing with systemic issues,” Young declared.

Asheville’s resolution doesn’t include monetary payments to African Americans but promises investments in areas where Black people face disparities.

Earlier this year, Congress debated H.R. 40, a bill that doesn’t place a specific monetary value on reparations but focuses on investigating and presenting the facts and truth about the unprecedented centuries of brutal enslavement of African people, racial healing, and transformation.

The bill would fund a commission to study and develop proposals for providing reparations to African Americans.

The commission’s mission includes identifying the role of federal and state governments in supporting the institution of slavery, forms of discrimination in public and private sectors against freed slaves and their descendants, and lingering adverse effects of slavery on living African Americans and society.

Congresswoman Jackson Lee, who sits on numerous House committees, including the Judiciary, Budget, and Homeland Security, has made the reparations legislation her top priority during the 117th Congress.

“I think if people begin to associate this legislation with what happened to the descendants of enslaved Africans as a human rights violation, the sordid past that violated the human rights of all of us who are descendants of enslaved Africans, I think that we can find common ground to pass this legislation,” Congresswoman Jackson Lee pronounced.

The project in Oakland targets groups with the city’s most significant wealth disparities.

According to CNN and per the Oakland Equality Index, the median income for White households in Oakland to be nearly three times that of Black homes.

“The poverty we all witness today is not a personal failure. It is a systems failure,” Schaaf remarked. “Guaranteed income is one of the most promising tools for systems change, racial equity, and economic mobility we’ve seen in decades.”

Two years ago, 100 residents in Stockton, California, began receiving unconditional $500 payments, CNN reported. Other initiatives in Newark, New Jersey, and Atlanta, Georgia, were launched as recently as 2020.

Former Stockton Mayor, Michael Tubbs, is the founder of Mayors for a Guaranteed Income, a network of advocating mayors founded in 2020.

Oakland Mayor Schaaf is also a founding member of the network.

“One of my hopes in testing out a guaranteed income is that other cities would follow suit, and I’m thrilled that Oakland is among the first,” Tubbs told CNN.

“By focusing on BIPOC residents, the Oakland Resilient Families program will provide critical financial support to those hardest hit by systemic inequities, including the pandemic’s disproportionate toll on communities of color.”

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